AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Nov. 5 referendum on constitutional amendments is the first statewide election held under Texas' new Voter ID law. The Texas secretary of state has issued handbooks for county election officials and local election judges to follow while enforcing the law. Here's a look at the law and what it means for voters:
VOTER ID LAW
Before the law came into effect in August, voters could cast ballots by presenting their county-issued voter registration card or a valid government-issued photo identification card. The law passed in 2011 requires voters to show one of seven kinds of photo ID in order to vote, with or without a voter registration card. The seven forms of identification include a Texas driver's license, U.S. passport, a state-issued ID card, a state-issued election certificate, a Texas concealed handgun license, a U.S. military ID or a citizenship certificate with a photograph issued by the federal government.
With the exception of the citizenship certificate, none of the forms of identification may be expired for more than 60 days.
The election judge is required to compare the name on the ID card to the voter registration card or the computerized voter roll maintained at the precinct. If the names are not a match, the election judge can declare them "substantially similar" if the difference is slight (Wendy Davis vs Wendy Russell Davis), a customary variation (Gregory Abbott vs Greg Abbott) or if the name is the same but filled out in a different order (Mary Jones vs Mary Jones Smith).
The election judge will also verify the voter's address before providing a ballot.
Failure to produce a recognized ID card or a rejection of an ID card does not mean an individual may not vote. The voter may still cast a ballot, but it will be considered provisional until the voter can obtain an ID and present it to the county voting office within six days. If the voter does meet the deadline, the ballot is not counted.
Supporters of the law say the Voter ID requirement guarantees the integrity of elections by making sure the voter is who they say they are. They point out that people cannot cash a check or rent a DVD without proper identification and voting should be held to the same standard.
Opponents point out that voter fraud isn't a serious problem in Texas and that poor, elderly or minority voters are more likely not to possess an approved form of ID. They accuse the state's Republican leadership of passing the law to discourage groups who generally vote Democratic from casting ballots.
The Justice Department, NAACP, Mexican American Legislative Caucus, and other voting rights groups have joined a federal lawsuit to overturn the law that they feel is unconstitutional. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. But a trial will most likely take place next year.
Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/cltomlinson